Like all of you, I have a sad and heavy heart. No words can adequately express our brokenness and distress, our pain, fear, and devastation. Each one of us has been touched personally. “Ain Milim – There Are No Words”.
And yet, we do what the Jewish people have always done, we take comfort in community. In one another. In our unity as One People and One Family. Together, we are always stronger than when we remain isolated and alone. And so, we gather to draw strength from and with each other.
I just got off a zoom call convened by Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) for all of our Jewish camp professionals. Over 170 joined us along with camp movement heads, educators, and FJC staff to hold shared space, to mourn together, grieve together, and to find comfort and strength in one another. Today’s call focused on helping our camp professionals feel cared for, because we know that they all hold so much for so many, all the time, and we wanted to create a space where they too could feel held, by and with, this community.
Our connection to the events in Israel cannot be understated. Jewish camps host thousands of Israeli shlichim (emmisaries), madrichim (counselors), and chanichim (campers) each summer. Multiplied over decades, the connections run very deep indeed. Many have already shared horrific and tragic stories of loss these past five days. As we continue to navigate through this difficult time, we will all undoubtedly cope with fear, anxiety, and stress. We send chizuk, strength, to each of you reading this message, whether you are a camp professional, board member, educator, alumnus, donor, Jewish communal professional or lay leader, parent, or grandparent.
Over the next few months, FJC will lead the field in developing revised strategies to address security, staffing, MESSH (mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health) support, and refreshed Israel education and programming, which remain key components of the Jewish summer camp experience. We will work closely with Jewish Federations of North America, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Secure Community Network, and our national and international partner organizations and we encourage you to engage locally as well.
As our colleague and friend, Rabbi Isaac Saposnik of Camp Havaya so poignantly reminded us in a recent message, “…a vibrant, meaningful, and life-affirming Jewish community is what we need right now. And the support, strength, and love of that community is what our kids will need this coming summer.”
May we gain strength from each other. May we stand proudly in unity – as one family, one community, one Jewish people – for our brothers and sisters in Israel, and for peace.
Am Yisrael Chai.